Advice on privacy in simple terms please
August 9, 2006 12:19 PM   Subscribe

What software should I use/purchase to protect my privacy on the internet? (I'm sure this question has been asked before, but in my archive searches I couldn't find an answer in plain English that I could follow. Feel free to send me the link to any previous discussion on this!)

In my ideal world, I could easily look at any website I wanted and no one would know that I had done so. Also, I'd like my email to be private and read only by the person I'm sending it to - although I understand that this is complicated by the receiver's security set-up). Finally, I'd like any downloading I do through BitTorrent etc. to be known only to me.

Is what I want even possible?

I know that there is a product called Anonymizer out there, but I don't know how it works or if it has a good reputation.

Sadly, I have a hard time following very technical explanations of this stuff, so the simpler your feedback for me, the better.
posted by serazin to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: OK, makes sense. Mostly, I dislike the idea of the NSA knowing every detail of my life.

Say I was writing a book on the history of homemade bombs. I'd be nervous that in some possible fascist-state near future, my search history could be used to falsely convict me of blowing shit up. I know there are these websites I can go threw to make me 'invisible' to the page I am reading (not sure if I have this quite right actually!) But I don't understand if my internet provider still knows what I'm looking at. Since it's now clear that these providers are routing their users information to the NSA, I"m concerned.

Secondarily, I'd like to download things privately.

And I'd also like privacy in my email although I think I need some sort of mutual encription system with the person I'm corresponding with?

See, I have a very vague sense of how all this works but I don't understand any specifics or know any strategies for protecting myself.
posted by serazin at 12:34 PM on August 9, 2006

For Browsing you can use: Tor.
For Bittorrent you will need an anonyzing proxy such as Metropipe
Email is a little more difficult, there was a business not to long ago that was getting all sorts of press for it, but they look kinda defucnt, Disapperaing Inc. If you must use an email, you might want to try a service such as Will Self Destruct. The problem is that text can always be copied/ saved etc. All communication that goes out from you has the potential to be copied though, I think secure voice chat is probably the best bet.
posted by bigmusic at 12:35 PM on August 9, 2006

whoa, forgot to spell check that one.
posted by bigmusic at 12:37 PM on August 9, 2006

Use TOR as bigmusic suggested,
posted by SirStan at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2006

It's impossible to encrypt all your email. If your ISP supports SSL on their SMTP server (look for those exact words on their website/help pages), enabling it in you mail program will encrypt it between your computer and their server, but it will travel the rest of the way unencrypted.

If you regularly email a particular person and you want to be unencrypted, you can use things like PGP to encrypt the message.
posted by cillit bang at 12:43 PM on August 9, 2006

You might want to have a look at these other applications if you are concerned about security and privacy.

Ants p2p
posted by bigmusic at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2006

Anonymouse is a proxy. They've got a server with a big pipe connected. You connect to it, and it connects to whatever site you're interested in looking at. The site sees Anonymouse's IP, not yours.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2006

Tor is fine if you like 8 second connection delays to most websites. Clearing all cookies on browser exit is my solution. For email, I use encryption on my intranet (IMAP SSL and Exim 4 with TLS) but don't encrypt emails to friends and coworkers. I use TrueCrypt to protect all personal data on my hard drive. The Internet still isn't ready for end-to-end encryption between everyone.
posted by aye at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2006

For Windows, and especially with a USB key Torpark is hard to beat, Firefox and Tor, works out of the box. And it's free.
posted by hardcode at 3:53 PM on August 9, 2006

One thing I will suggest is that if you use a big web mail portal (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) for your email, sign out of the service before browsing the web. I noticed quickly that when I have Gmail open and I use Google, it says Hi Radioamy. Yuk.
posted by radioamy at 6:08 PM on August 9, 2006

radioamy: even when you're signed out of gmail, google is probably still linking your searches to your account via cookies. Just so you know.
posted by blag at 6:35 PM on August 9, 2006

If you want to educate yourself about the privacy/security issues and options that are available for the common man, have a look at this website: how to exit the matrix. Silly name but really informative.
posted by bigmusic at 8:27 PM on August 9, 2006

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